Question : What is a tartan?   What is a plaid?   What are cheques?
  The terms "tartan" and "plaid" and "cheques" are often confusing to the uninitiated.

A tartan is a specific woven pattern that often signifies a particular geographic district or Scottish clan in the modern era. The pattern is made with alternating stripes and bands of colored (pre-dyed) threads woven as both warp and weft at right angles to each other. In a twill weave, the weft is woven two over - two under the warp, advancing one thread each pass, forming diagonal lines. The resulting blocks of color repeat vertically and horizontally in a distinctive pattern of squares and lines known as a sett.

Tartan is also known as "plaid" in North America and as "cheques" in the border areas of England abutting Scotland.

Plaid is a Scots language word meaning blanket. In Scotland, a plaid or a plaid rug is a large thick woollen twill cloth, often tartan, used as a travel rug or as a blanket. It may be laid on the ground as a tablecloth for a picnic. When the modern kilt is worn as a dress uniform, as in the illustration above, a plaid is a pleated cloth cast over the shoulder and fastened at the front. The plaid may or may not be in the same tartan as the kilt. A similar plaid in checked cloth was formerly worn by Scottish lowlands shepherds.

Historically the earlier form of the kilt was the belted plaid, a double width of thick woollen cloth worn pleated and fastened around the waist by a belt, with the upper half often cast over the shoulder but sometimes hanging down over the belt and gathered up at the front or brought up over the head for protection against weather. This was worn over a shirt and formed a cheap all-weather outfit that also served as a blanket or bedroll for camping in the wilderness.

A cheque is a woven pattern forming squares of alternating colors. Above, a clansman wears a Balmoral bonnet with crest badge on the cockade. The band is chequered or "diced." The term "cheques" refers to this pattern.
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